Tuesday, July 16, 2019
After meeting with countless Southern Arizonans, reading the Special Council’s report, and seeing the President and his administration defy Congressional subpoenas, I have concluded that the United States House of Representatives must open an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Following Mueller’s alarming report, it is Congress’ job to conduct oversight and deliver answers to the American people. Instead, the President has called upon his administration officials to ignore Congressional subpoenas and break the law, not just related to the Special Counsel’s investigation into collusion, but all areas of Congressional oversight — including census hearings, campaign finance violations, family separation, and so many more.
As a Congresswoman, former prosecutor and American citizen, I have a responsibility to stand up for the rule of law and defend our Constitution. This should not be made into a partisan fight or a debate about long-term election strategy, it’s about protecting our democracy. Nobody is above the law, especially not the President.
Crucially, a Senate impeachment trial could not get mired in multiple layers of district court and appellate court litigation. Under Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 of the Constitution, “when the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside.” As the “Presiding Officer,” under Senate impeachment Rule V, the chief justice has the power “to make and issue … all orders, mandates, writs, and precepts authorized by these rules or by the Senate.” The chief justice likewise has full authority to “direct all the forms of proceedings while the Senate is sitting for the purpose of trying an impeachment, and all forms during the trial not otherwise specially provided for.” According to the Senate rules, it is the chief justice as presiding officer who gets to “rule on all questions of evidence including, but not limited to, questions of relevancy, materiality, and redundancy of evidence and incidental questions.” And while Rule VII permits a member of the Senate to demand a Senate vote on the chief’s rulings, it is difficult to imagine even Mitch McConnell seeking to overrule Chief Justice John Roberts. Indeed, no senator challenged a single ruling by Chief Justice William Rehnquist during the Bill Clinton impeachment trial.
Whatever then happens for any given witness or exhibit, the chief’s rulings are apt to be prompt and efficient. There would be no reams of legal briefing, no extended oral arguments, no endless appeals. The parties would cut right to the chase, and the substance of the Mueller report allegations—not to mention the role of Individual 1 in providing hush money on the eve of the 2016 election—would play out on live TV.
So, for example, if the House impeachment managers call Don McGahn to testify, the White House cannot rush off to court to block his attendance. The president must make his objections to the chief justice, who will issue an effectively unreviewable order on “relevancy, materiality, and redundancy.” Given the central role McGahn played in Trump’s obstruction of justice, it is hard to imagine that the chief justice would restrict him from testifying. So too for most of the key players in Volume II of the Mueller report. And unlike what the Trump administration may do in the face of adverse rulings in the lower federal courts, it seems exceedingly unlikely—even with this president—that the administration would defy a ruling by the chief justice sitting as the presiding officer in an impeachment trial.